Does Competition Affect Giving?

Tatiana Kornienko, John Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Charities often devise fund-raising strategies that exploit natural human competitiveness in combination with the desire for public recognition. We explore whether institutions promoting competition can affect altruistic giving – even when possibilities for public acclaim are minimal. In a controlled laboratory experiment based on a sequential “dictator game” , we find that subjects tend to give more when placed in a generosity tournament, and tend to give less when placed in an earnings tournament – even if there is no award whatsoever for winning the tournament. Further we find that subjects’ experimental behavior correlates with their responses to a post-experiment questionnaire, particularly questions addressing altruistic and rivalrous behavior. Based on this evidence, we argue that behavior in our experiment is driven, in part, by innate competitive motives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-103
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • Dictator game
  • Charitable giving
  • Competitive altruism
  • Relative standing
  • Tournaments
  • Factor analysis


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